Lessons from Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club (Part 2 – Olympic Lifting)
Updated: Jan 26
This article explores my experiences training at the Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club in London. Some of you may find it helpful or useful.
Setting the Weightlifting Club Scene
I’ve heard Olympic weightlifting described in a variety of ways. My favourite of these are as the "weird-looking movements that guy is doing over in the corner" and as "that crazy sport where you throw massive weights overhead"
With this is mind it was with a good degree of both excitement and nervousness that I found myself in my first Olympic weightlifting class over at Bethnal Green. Having already been to the powerlifting session earlier in the week (click here to read about my experiences) I suspected I was in for some damn hard work. My suspicions were correct.
Coaching and my first session
The Coach that ran the class, Hamza Abayo, started me off with a quick warm-up on a bike whilst he finished off his own workout (which mainly seemed to include cutting through 200kg squats like butter.) After that, I was quickly taken through some weightlifting specific warm-ups (overhead squats and snatch balances) before being presented with a bar, some weights and being asked to perform a snatch. I’m not going to lie, it was tough at first, but my technique was corrected after each set of lifts and the weight kept on going up. It was old school training with minimal accessory work and plenty of the main lifts. Simple but effective, and before I knew it I’d hit PB after PB. As for the clean and jerk, copy and paste the exact same story.
Just like the powerlifting club, though, what really made the session special was the sense of camaraderie amongst lifters. I found myself partnered up with another budding lifter, typical practice for the club apparently. This way whatever you were lifting you could guarantee someone was watching ready to offer tips and advice to improve your next lift. It was a session where dropping the bar was ok, provided you learnt from it. As my fellow lifter put it, ‘it’s a judgement free zone.’
Does this mean coach Hamza won’t take the piss? Absolutely not. In fact I’m pretty sure that the more experienced lifter you are the more he’ll mock you. Bail from a lift too early and you can expect to hear chicken noises. Make silly mistakes and expect to hear that ‘it’s all gone bananas.’ Each comment, though, is made with a laugh, and you’ll still be given advice on how to sort it out. The result is one where you don’t want to fail, but you can laugh if you do. It’s serious business, but not without a sense of fun.
Community Weightlifting Belts, Chalk and cups of tea
Another cool little detail was a wall of lifting belts, a box of teabags and a stack of weightlifting chalk, all completely free for lifters. No idea if that's still the case now, but I found it to be a nice touch.
Is It For You? Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club Review
If you’re the kind of person that runs from a challenge, then Olympic lifting, especially at BGWLC, might not be your thing. But if you like training hard, focussing on technique and committing to improvement then you might just find a training style and a sport that you’ll absolutely love.
If you happen to be in London I can’t recommend Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club highly enough. Solid coaches, good atmosphere and a space to train hard.
'Til Next Time